Who Is This Man?
3 May 2015
A study in the series on the Gospel of John by John Dugas
Grace Bible Church, Tulsa
Full Audio Message
I read on Tuesday about the human pain suffered by those in Nepal after that devastating earthquake. A 79 year old farmer slowly walked around the remains of his son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter before lighting the pyre. To them he said, “May your souls rest in peace. Losing you has turned my heart to stone.” Not far away, a 33 year old teacher mourned his wife and daughter saying, “Now I have no house and nobody to go home to.” A 66 year old woman sighed in grief over the flames consuming her daughter. (“Nepal Mourns Quake’s Dead,” Wall Street Journal, April 28, 2015). At last count there are more than 6,800 of those stories.
Where was God when this earthquake happened? Some Christians react by saying God had nothing to do with this disaster, but He’d sure like to help those who are hurting. While that might sound nice, it says something sad about their view of God. Either He can’t prevent calamity or He stands aloof until time to help, letting the forces of nature take their course and then swoops in as head of the rescue team. That isn’t the God of the Bible. That view of God terrifies me! I can’t live life in peace if God isn’t in control of these mighty forces.
Give me the Biblical God who is in absolute control of these mighty forces—who raises storms and calms them. In situations like this, people need to see their need of the sovereign Creator when He doesn’t appear to be present. But instead of jumping to conclusions, assuming that He isn’t present, or doesn’t care, or can’t prevent calamity, we must consider what we know to be true. God hasn’t left us ignorant of His character nor has He left us to figure it out on our own. He has revealed to us both that He is in absolute control of all things and that He cares deeply for people.
People want a God with super human powers in times of crisis. But they never want a God who is absolutely sovereign. They don’t want a God who actually raises the storms. That God is too big for them. Why? While He would have the power to save, He would also have the power to condemn sinners to Hell. In our sin-corroded minds, we’ll sacrifice a Savior if it means we won’t have to face a Judge. We choose to stick our heads in the sand to pretend we won’t be held accountable for our sins. Oh what games we play in our minds just to avoid facing up to the coming wrath of God! Left alone, we can’t bring ourselves to the biblical God. That’s why the biblical God came to us!
In profound wisdom, the Holy Spirit has recorded for us real life situations to help us apply the Bible to our own real life situations. By carefully studying these, we learn how to put into practice the help that Scripture offers us. Our lessons today will come indirectly from the disciple’s experience—sort of learning from their mistakes. This is fitting since they were still learning.
In this account, we get to see the disciples in three different situations: when it seems that Jesus isn’t present, when they don’t recognize that Jesus is present, and when they recognize His presence. Those are good ways to think about the different situations that we find ourselves in. John wants us to use each situation in life to prompt us to consider who Jesus is. You see, Jesus will use both of these miracles in His extended discussion to teach His disciples about who He is. Jesus will use the feeding of the multitude to teach them about Himself as the Bread of Life. And He will use this miracle in today’s passage to help drive home the promise that He will save whomever believes in Him and He will lose none of them (6:37-40). I want us now to see this first lesson:
I. When Jesus seems to be absent, consider how much you need Him (John 6:16-18).
Without Jesus’ presence, the disciples experience their need for Him. After feeding the 5,000, Jesus knew that they were intending to make Him king ahead of schedule so He sent the disciples back to the sea to make for Capernaum while He went further up the mountain to pray (Mk 6:45-46). It was possibly just before sunset at this time (evening). By the time that the disciples make it into the boat, it had already become dark. They headed out across the sea and Jesus still had not come to them. They may have assumed He’d catch up to them in another boat. Now it’s around 3 AM.
As the sun went down, the winds picked up and a typical evening storm was brewing. The Sea of Galilee is known for its sudden and severe storms. The sea is 600 feet below sea level and is like a bowl situated amidst the surrounding hills. When the sun sets, the air cools and blows from the west, over the hills and down to the sea, causing the sea to churn.
During our first night on the Sea of Galilee, Connie and I experienced one of these storms. It reminded me of our springtime storms here in Oklahoma. The winds gust violently, blowing rain and leaves against your window. Storms you know can produce tornadoes here. You mentally prepare—do we go to the neighbor’s storm shelter or do we hunker down in the bathtub with a mattress over us? But imagine that violent, blowing, churning storm in a small boat in the middle of the sea! You don’t have a storm shelter. You don’t even have a bathtub to hide in. Then there are waves tossing your boat around and crashing against its sides. Now THAT would be terrifying.
Whether you find yourself in a storm—a literal one or a figurative one where life seems to be a turbulent whirlwind—make yourself consider how much you need our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Messiah. Allow your faith to grow as you spiritually cling to Him, rest on your hope in Him. Remind yourself that hope in Him is the anchor for your soul (Heb 6:19). But maybe your life isn’t stormy right now. Maybe you just can’t make sense of it. What should you do? Second,
II. When you can’t make sense out of your situation, seek Him all the more (John 6:19).
When Jesus’ presence isn’t clear it exposes His disciples to fear and worry. Heading directly into the storm, rowing against the wind, they were making very little headway. Being three or four miles from land, they found themselves in the middle of the lake (Mk 6:47) and in the middle of a storm. Because they are rowing, they are facing back toward the east where they left Jesus.
Along comes Jesus walking on the water toward them and He intended to walk past the boat (Mk 6:48). The wind and waves had no affect on Jesus making progress walking across the sea. Since it isn’t normal to see someone walking on the water, along with the terror of the storm, they assumed it was a ghost coming toward them. Think about storms you’ve endured. When you look out the window you think you see all sorts of spooky things. Needless to say, they were terrified (Mt 6:49).
Keep in mind why all of this is happening to them. Jesus is teaching them about Himself. He was up on the mountain praying. Mark mentions that Jesus was able to see them straining at the oars from where He was (6:48). No doubt, He was praying for them. If Jesus is praying for you, you should have no worries. Allow your fear, anxiety, worry or confusion move you to seek Jesus all the more. How? By reminding yourself about what the Bible says is true of Jesus. Building on this episode, Jesus will promise His disciples that He will lose no one who believes in Him. What assurance! So should we only seek Jesus when things are bad? Romans 8:28 says that God works ALL things together for good—that includes even the good things! So now third,
III. When Jesus is clearly present, use that time to meditate on who He is (John 6:20-21).
In Jesus’ presence, the disciples experience His compassionate control. Jesus quickly identified Himself. He brought them encouragement in their fear. John’s Greek readers would have picked up on something here, especially after reading this the second time. While this isn’t one of the seven great “I AM” statements in this Gospel, it does hint toward what those teach. Jesus identifies Himself by saying to them “I am.” While this is how you’d say, “It is I,” I think in light of how John makes a big deal out of the seven “I AM” statements more is going on here.
Jesus is making a claim to being the God of the OT who spoke to the Fathers, particularly to Moses. Having brought Moses to their minds in the previous miracle, Jesus now takes their minds to Moses once more, only this time to show them that this Prophet who was to be like Moses is far greater than Moses. Jesus is the “I AM” who spoke to Moses!
There is a third part to this miracle. John reports that as soon as Jesus entered the boat, behold, they are at the land to which they were going! Not just any land, but specifically where they were headed. In the blinding storm, they probably had no idea where they were. But Jesus saw them safely to their destination—to safe harbor.
Whether you can see it or not, Jesus is with His disciples under all circumstances. He has power over the forces of nature. Devout Jews were familiar with passages in the OT which declare by faith that Yahweh is the Sovereign Master over the forces of nature, particularly over the wind and the sea which appear to be especially frightening when you’re in a boat. Here are a few notable ones: Job 38:8-11; Ps 29:3-4, Psalm 29:10-11; Psalm 65:5-7; Psalm 89:9. One that fits our passage today is Ps 107:23-32 [read].
Jesus came walking to His frightened disciples on the raging sea that threatened their very lives! These raging waters, turbulent waves and noisy winds that had killed thousands of men before, were as submissive to Jesus as a little puppy. The waves weren’t trying to sink Him. They were looking to Him for their orders. He raised the winds and the waves by His command and they perfectly obeyed. When He gave the command to be calmed they immediately obeyed! Our God does not react to storms. He raises them up and uses them for His purposes. Long ago He taught Israel, “In whirlwind and storm is His way” (Nah 1:3). Remember that God does not react to your trials. He raises them up and uses them for His purposes. We sing Meekness and Majesty. We need to add a song: Compassion and sovereignty!